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Monday, June 21, 2010

"Needle of Death" by Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch performs "Needle of Death" 6/15/10 in Felton, CA.

Bert Jansch recenty performed "Needle of Death" while on tour with Pegi Young.

"Needle of Death" has been cited by Neil Young as an inspiration for the song "Ambulance Blues". Neil Young told Rolling Stone back in 1992:
"I was especially taken by Needle Of Death, such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good… And years later, on On The Beach, I wrote the melody of Ambulance Blues by styling the guitar part completely on Needle Of Death. I wasn’t even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it."

And here's review of a recent concert of Pegi Young Goes and Bert Jansch by
Daniel in Portland:
"Behind every great guy there's a great gal."

I don't know who said that but it's more than true when it comes to Neil Young.

I attended the Bert Jansch/Pegi Young Band show on June 12. The venue holds less than 200 and we had seats up front. I think the smaller the venue the better for two artists' like these. And without elaborating, all I'm going to say here is that Pegi's set was a heck of a lot of FUN! The crowd was movin' and groovin'!

Bert Jansch is a whole different trip. Same crowd, totally different reaction. We were sitting no more than ten feet from the stage and we were fixated, for lack of a better term. Compared to Pegi's set that had folks whistling and yahooing, the crowd settled in to hear every nuance and follow every tuning and capo setting of the guitar (he changed it every song). At one point, he said, "You're very quiet."

Nobody said nothin'. Like I said, we were enamored with his...playing and presence.
So, it was like two completely different shows in one. But both having one common thread and that is being associated with Neil. It blows my mind some people think there is something wrong with that.

"Behind every great guy there's a great gal."

You bet your ass there is!

It was nice meeting you, Pegi.

- Daniel in Portland

More on Pegi Young and Bert Jansch tour and Bert Jansch and Neil Young.


At 6/21/2010 07:12:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Wow! Very beautiful. And you can totally hear Ambulance Blues in it... the verses sound very similar.

At 6/21/2010 07:18:00 PM, Blogger doc said... familiar is that!

Needle of death needs an ambulance!
Lucky Neil and bert are buddies

My sweet lordy..where's George Harrison when yas want him? lol


At 6/21/2010 07:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was so strange listening to this song while watching the oil leaking right next to it.

Needle of Death indeed. Can you say Vampire Blues?

At 6/21/2010 09:58:00 PM, Anonymous SONY said...

Ambience Blues. Tre bon!

At 6/22/2010 04:13:00 AM, Anonymous Yair said...

Always fantastic, touching and soulful. Bert Is A hero.

At 6/22/2010 01:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very, very touching indeed. I had hoped that Neil and Bert could have done a duet, Bert opening with Needle of Death, bleeding into Neil with Needle and the Damage Done, and perhaps several bars of Ambulance then back to Needle of Death.. they both had the same story to tell, in different ways... cautionary tales to be told while in a ditch.

At 6/22/2010 05:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So wonder the tune stuck in Neil`s subconscious. Bert certainly wasn`t just pissing in the wind when he wrote that!

By the way, here`s a link to Neil and Bert playing Ambulance Blues together at the BSB `06 -


At 6/23/2010 04:49:00 PM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

What a beautiful and timeless song...the version that Bert plays in this video is just about perfect if there ever is such a thing. I could listen to him tuning up getting ready to play this for at least a half hour. The progression just completely sucks you in with a feeling of total inevitability.

I am very aware of this song, but ironically have never heard Bert's original version until now. Thank you so much for such a superb's beyond comparison and description.

The version I'm most familiar with was recorded by Yo La Tengo back in 1999. They somehow manage to make it even sadder than the original, with absolutely haunting vocals from Georgia and sublime guitar from James and Ira. Check out their version which is on Today Is the Day! EP and also see the link I've included for a live version by YLT.

And speaking of Ira Kaplan, he did an interview with Neil back in the mid 90's that is probably my favorite one ever. It was for Spin magazine...might still have a copy of this somewhere.

Congratulations and a thousand thanks to Landon Donovan and the US World Cup Team...what an amazing game!!!

At 6/24/2010 02:05:00 PM, Anonymous Martin Lav said...

During Bridge Benefit 20 on Saturday Neil stood on the side of the stage during Bert's entire set. I remember marveling at that as it was the only time I ever saw Neil so intent on watching another performance. Unfortunately for me, I didn't go to Sunday's show and consequently missed their duet of Ambulance Blues. I guess I was just pissing in the wind myself.

At 6/28/2010 04:41:00 AM, Blogger LittleRaggie said...

There is a similarity to Ambulances blues, but only for 5 or 6 notes then it floats away in another direction. The Needle of Death got my attention to remind fans of Danny that they have a new place to visit him at


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